Greg Whitby, executive director of schools, Catholic Education Diocese of ParramattaTHERE has been discussion recently in the media about the future of the school laptop program with the New South Wales Government seeking a funding guarantee from the Commonwealth to replace outdated computers.
What is important to remember is that this program under the Rudd-Gillard Government’s 2008 Digital Education Revolution was an initiative of its time. Five years ago, many schools were still grappling with the introduction of new technology such as laptops.
Although the Federal Government recognised the importance of students having access to contemporary learning tools in a digital age, the program put the cart before the horse, or the tools before the teaching.
The ‘revolution’ did not address the core issues of contemporary schooling — such as teacher quality and development or curriculum and assessment.
In 2013, we are challenged to find new solutions as we begin moving from a 1:1, to a 1 to many and Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) environment.
Wireless or wifi is becoming increasingly pervasive and, in the last few years, we have seen exponential growth of next generation technologies such
as tablet computers and smartphones.
The saturation of mobile technologies in society has not only helped shape our understanding of the potential of these tools within the learning space but, importantly, our understanding of today’s learners.
Young people do not see technology as a tool but fundamental to how they communicate, entertain, share and learn.
Schools both here and overseas are beginning to question the viability of 1:1 technology when the vast majority of students and teachers now have at least two mobile devices (for example iPhone and iPad).
According to the 2012 Horizon Report K-12, apps are the “fastest growing dimension of the mobile space in the K-12 sector”.
In the future, these devices will become much smaller, more powerful, more mobile and more embedded.
So, how must schools respond?
In reality, schools will never be able to keep pace with emerging technologies so our focus needs to be on building the knowledge and skills of every teacher in order to meet the needs of today’s learners.
Michael Fullan, professor emeritus at the University of Toronto stated in his 2011 paper Choosing the wrong drivers for whole system reforms that “no successful country became good through using technology at the front. Without pedagogy in the lead technology may be driving us to distraction, with the child’s digital world detached from the school world. Technology will be a dramatic accelerator if we can put instruction and skilled, motivated teachers and students in the lead.”
As leaders and educators, we need to be reflecting on key questions such as: What are the pedagogies that will best serve today’s learners? What will help develop clear thinking, discerning and creative problem solvers? How can we fully utilise the tools to enrich these pedagogies and facilitate the acquisition of new knowledge and skills?
In a recent opinion piece for the New York Times (January 29), Thomas L Friedman concedes that to be successful in the knowledge age, it will be “vital to have more of the ‘right’ education than less, that you will need to develop skills that are complementary to technology rather than ones that can be easily replaced by it.”
We need teachers who are able to provide more of the ‘right’ education – who are problem-solvers and critical thinkers themselves, who can work collaboratively and utilise the tools to create learning experiences that are more personalised, relevant and responsive to today’s world.
ATM March, 2013: Vol 9 Issue 2
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